Employee Incentives that Won’t Break the Bank


Simple Strategies to Incentivize Your Team

All managers want to get the best performance out of their team. If we’re fortunate, we may be able to build a team of self-motivated superstars who always excel.

But far more common are employees who, despite their best intentions, need some encouragement to perform better. According to business guru Dale Carnegie, “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards.”

The most traditional forms of employee incentives are financial: bonuses, pay raises, stock options, and the like. But what if your organization can’t afford such incentives? How can you motivate team members without breaking your budget? How can you compete with more well-resourced companies to retain your employees?

The good news is that you have plenty of low-cost options that also effectively build morale and improve performance. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Regularly express gratitude and appreciation.

Whether said privately or publicly, a “thank you” can go a long way. During his tenure as CEO of food giant Campbell’s Soup, Douglas Conant wrote 30,000 thank-you notes to his employees, from maintenance staff to senior executives. “On the face of it,” he explains, “writing handwritten notes may seem like a waste of time. But in my experience, they build goodwill and lead to higher productivity.”

Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated for their efforts. Being recognized gives a positive boost to our brain functions and physical well-being. On top of that, researchers have found that a culture of gratitude builds stronger relationships and more effective teamwork. These all motivate employees and encourage them to stay with your organization.

  1. Offer perks that promote work-life balance.

For millennials, work-life balance is a top priority. There are many benefits you can provide in this area, including flexible work hours, telecommuting, and permission to turn off their devices after office hours. Employees with families may look for other benefits such as generous leave policies for childbirth, caring for a sick relative, or bereavement.

While such practices might seem to put you at a disadvantage to your more driven competitors, in the long run, your employees will be much healthier and can sustain their work longer. Meaningful personal time has also been shown to promote creativity and clearer thinking, which leads to increased effectiveness on the job.

  1. Make the work environment pleasant and fun.

You may not be able to afford the gourmet meals, gyms, and laundry services offered by corporate giants like Google, but you can still create a great work environment for your employees. Consider decorating your walls with bright colors or beautiful images; maybe provide free pastries or desserts once a week; throw a birthday party once a month, or perhaps add some couches so employees have more comfortable seating. You could also provide team members with the best equipment you can afford, such as high-quality pens, ergonomic chairs, or mobile phones and laptops.

Each of these gestures lets your employees know that you care about them. And in return, they will care more about their job, their team, and the performance of the company. At Kenyans Come Home, we find that most candidates are simply looking for a work environment where they feel challenged, appreciated, and well taken care of. Often it is the little things that make a difference to them, whether it is flexible hours to enable them to collect their children from school, good coffee or healthy snacks at the office, or cake to celebrate and highlight individual achievements.

If you feel like your team needs a motivating boost, but you don’t have a large budget, there is plenty you can do. And if you’re not sure what to do, you can always ask your employees what incentives they want. Listening closely to your team members and engaging them in organizational decisions is simply another way that you can strengthen morale among your team.